Speed Divorce for Ayu

Hamasaki Ayumi, Manuel Schwarz

International marriages are on the increase in Japan, and that has to be a good thing for such an insular country. But yesterday saw the all-too-sudden end of one such high profile marriage, as J-pop diva Hamasaki Ayumi (33) announced to her fans that she and her Austrian husband are getting divorced today. Ayu posted a message to her online fan club shortly before midnight last night, saying that she and Los Angeles-based actor Manuel Schwarz (31) were calling it quits after being married for a little over a year. A lawyer for the singer is to file the divorce papers in Las Vegas today. Sources say there will be no alimony payments or divorce settlement.

One of the reasons given for the divorce in the Japanese media is that Hamasaki, who initially agreed that the couple should live in the US, has felt a strong desire to stay in Japan in the aftermath of last March’s earthquake and tsunami disaster. Her fund-raising efforts, such as the sale of specially designed t-shirts, have raised tens of millions of yen for disaster relief. Hamasaki spent a week in Hawaii earlier this month, with no sign of her husband, and is said to be currently working overseas.

Last year was something of a roller coaster ride for Hamasaki. She wore a white wedding dress for her appearance on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve, 2010, where she sang “Virgin Road,” the Japanese expression for walking up the aisle. The very next day she flew to Las Vegas to get hitched in a small wedding chapel. In September she was forced to drop out at the last minute from a planned appearance in the 25th anniversary special of TV Asahi’s “Music Station” when she suffered a bout of acute pharyngitis in the US.

Ever the professional, Hamasaki has tried to put a brave face on things for her fans. On January 14, she posted a hint of what was to come on Twitter, saying “B thankful 4 the bad things in life. 4 they open my eyes 2 the good things I wasn’t paying attention before;)” and later “Tabidachi no junbi dayo. I’m on my way to future.” Two days later it was her husband’s turn as he re-posted a tweet from guitarist Slash, a famous quote from legendary British prime minister Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”